This year’s Wimbledon looks like it will become the next high profile sporting casualty of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Following the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, and the deferral of Euro 2020, and the cancellation of such iconic events as the Masters Golf tournament, and the Monaco Grand Prix, it looks certain that the highlight of the grass court season will not take place this year.
The All-England club has announced that a formal decision will be made next week, but with the option of playing behind closed doors formally ruled out, the verdict appears almost inevitable.
Currently, all the clubs courts and training facilities are closed, with physical access to the sites kept to the bare minimum necessary to maintain the condition of the grass courts, and enforce security.
Earlier this month, the French Open announced plans to delay their own tournament from late May to September, starting just one week after the US Open is due to finish. That unilateral decision, in turn, has prompted the organisers of the US Open to consider rescheduling their own event, although no decision has yet been made and, unlike their French counterparts, they intend to consult with key stakeholders first.
However, although a gap in the tennis calendar has opened up with the Olympics put back until next year, even a small delay of a few weeks is unlikely to make a difference when it comes to holding this years Wimbledon championships, especially when the fact that organisers begin physical preparations for it at least a month in advance is taken into consideration..
Given the current UK restrictions on holding mass gatherings, the chance of Wimbledon being able to welcome 40,000 spectators a day seems a remote possibility at present. At the same time, organisers are very aware that, at a time of a national crisis, tying up overstretched health workers or the police to attend a sporting event is not an appropriate use of valuable resources.
Unfortunately, given the nature of the surface, and the vagaries of the British weather, unlike the French Open and its US equivalent, postponing a grass court event until the autumn is not a viable proposition.
It will be the first time that Wimbledon has been cancelled since the Second World War.